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Author Topic: Would you rather have the best sensor or the sharpest lens?  (Read 6800 times)
ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #20 on: January 30, 2013, 03:00:33 PM »
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Hi,

Personally I never print smaller than A2 and sometimes up to 70x100 cm.

What I would say that I have seen less difference between 12MP APS-C and 24MP full frame than what I would expected in A2 prints. I also think that sharpening matters a lot.

This discussion is very interesting. My take, right now, is that sensor resolution is more important than an excellent lens. I think that a good lens with an excellent sensor outperforms an excellent lens on a good sensor. This kind of discussion may be helpful in spending our assets wisely.

Best regards
Erik

But does all this really matter?

It's a question that we have to answer for ourselves. Personally I've never printed an image larger than A3 and most of my images are printed a lot smaller than that, if they're printed at all.

At the moment I'm perfectly happy with the images my 5D and G1 (at lower ISO's) produce when mated with any lens I own. Even my Rokkor and Zuiko lenses give me images that look perfectly sharp enough when mated to my G1. I really can't complain about sharpness or resolution. Maybe I'm easy to please.
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jrp
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« Reply #21 on: January 30, 2013, 03:56:39 PM »
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This http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2013/01/a-24-70mm-system-comparison answers the question
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BarbaraArmstrong
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« Reply #22 on: January 30, 2013, 05:47:12 PM »
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If someone hasn't seen a file, shot under good circumstances, from the DP2M, then you may have trouble understanding what I am talking about.  This camera, which produces absolutely stunning, gorgeous, sharp files, uses the same sensor as the Sigma SD1.  And I don't remember anyone outside of Sigma raving about that sensor.  But put that same sensor with the lens on the DP2M, and you have an utterly different story.  I am worried that any camera I may buy, at any price short of 30K or more, will not give me as sumptuous files to work with.  I enlarged and printed one file this week to 13-5/8 x 20-1/2".  It retained its sharpness and all other qualities.  My next iteration wil be larger, to assess the results.  I have to say my experience with the DP2M has made me very conscious of the importance of the lens.  --Barbara
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Ray
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« Reply #23 on: January 30, 2013, 06:08:46 PM »
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Therefore sensor resolution will contribute to increasing image quality as sensor generations (and time) go(es) by, and I would therefoer first start with getting a better lens because it will probably last for several sensor generations. What's more, the proportional resolution jump from denser sampling can already be achieved by using a longer focal length (assuming the longer focal length quality is also good) and the use of stitching to increase the field of view. So good lens quality always pays off, now and in the future. A good lens will probably also exhibit overall better image quality, e.g. improved glare resistance and more pleasing bokeh.


Hi Bart,
Doesn't the question imply certain budget constraints and/or weight considerations. If money is not a concern and one travels everywhere in an SUV and one rarely walks more than a few steps carrying one's photographic equipment, then one would automatically buy both the best lenses and the latest, highest-resolving camera. One wouldn't need to ask which would be the better option, an expensive lens with an older body, or a moderately good lens with the latest sensor.

Unfortunately, high quality lenses are sometimes not only impractically heavy for some uses, but exhoribtantly expensive. I was recently looking at the Nikkor 200-400/F4 VR which has the FL range that I'm interested in. I got a shock when I saw prices ranging from $7,000 to $8,000. I got another shock when I saw the weight of 3.36kg.

But supposing the weight is not such a major concern and one is prepared to lug around a 4.3Kg package (telephoto lens plus camera), but price is a concern. Let's imagine one already has a D700 and a few good lenses up to 200mm or so, but one really wants a longer focal length up to 400mm.

The D800E seems the best upgrade to the D700 with 3x the pixel count, and the 200-400/F4 VR is undoubtedly a sharper lens than the 80-400/F4.5-5.6 VR.

Which is the best option? A D800E at $3,500, plus an 80-400 at $1300 making a total cost of $4,800, or just the 200-400/F4 at a bargain price of $7,000? The assumption here is that I can't afford to buy both the D800E and the 200-400/F4. If I opt for the 200-400/F4, spending $2,200 more, I know that I won't be able to afford (or justify the purchase of) any more photographic equipment for a few years.

Cheers!
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zlatko-b
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« Reply #24 on: January 30, 2013, 09:30:00 PM »
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Sensor and lens are equally important, as are other factors such as ergonomics.  I'm not convinced that Nikon's D800E has the best sensor.  It may measure best for certain parameters, but I prefer Canon color and overall rendering.  And I prefer Canon's variable raw file options to Nikon's single raw file size.  So for me, Canon has the best sensor and now the best mid-range zoom.
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Ray
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« Reply #25 on: January 30, 2013, 11:41:32 PM »
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.... but I prefer Canon color and overall rendering.

Some of us prefer to do our own rendering in post processing, adjusting color to taste.  Wink
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #26 on: January 30, 2013, 11:57:00 PM »
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Hi Ray,

I would also consider a 24MP APS-C camera combined with a very good zoom. I don't know Nikon numbers but I'm sure there is a 24MP APS-C. Getting a really good zoom is a different issue. The Sigma 100-300/4 is said to be a very good performer.

Personally, I use a Sony Alpha full frame with Sony 24-70/2.8 and 70-400/4-5.6G lenses. For telephoto I always use my Alpha 77 (24MP APS-C). I'm quite happy with that combination.

Best regards
Erik


Hi Bart,
Doesn't the question imply certain budget constraints and/or weight considerations. If money is not a concern and one travels everywhere in an SUV and one rarely walks more than a few steps carrying one's photographic equipment, then one would automatically buy both the best lenses and the latest, highest-resolving camera. One wouldn't need to ask which would be the better option, an expensive lens with an older body, or a moderately good lens with the latest sensor.

Unfortunately, high quality lenses are sometimes not only impractically heavy for some uses, but exhoribtantly expensive. I was recently looking at the Nikkor 200-400/F4 VR which has the FL range that I'm interested in. I got a shock when I saw prices ranging from $7,000 to $8,000. I got another shock when I saw the weight of 3.36kg.

But supposing the weight is not such a major concern and one is prepared to lug around a 4.3Kg package (telephoto lens plus camera), but price is a concern. Let's imagine one already has a D700 and a few good lenses up to 200mm or so, but one really wants a longer focal length up to 400mm.

The D800E seems the best upgrade to the D700 with 3x the pixel count, and the 200-400/F4 VR is undoubtedly a sharper lens than the 80-400/F4.5-5.6 VR.

Which is the best option? A D800E at $3,500, plus an 80-400 at $1300 making a total cost of $4,800, or just the 200-400/F4 at a bargain price of $7,000? The assumption here is that I can't afford to buy both the D800E and the 200-400/F4. If I opt for the 200-400/F4, spending $2,200 more, I know that I won't be able to afford (or justify the purchase of) any more photographic equipment for a few years.

Cheers!

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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #27 on: January 31, 2013, 05:48:09 AM »
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Hi Bart,
Doesn't the question imply certain budget constraints and/or weight considerations.

Hi Ray,

Sure, budget is always an issue on the short term, but on the longer term one will benefit from having a better lens. As I said, in a better lens the overall image quality is likely to be better (CA, glare resistance, bokeh, resolution). I have used more (increasingly better) sensors per lens than the other way around. That's because my lens choice has always been for the better quality alternatives at that time. Good lenses last a long time, so saving a bit longer for a better lens will pay off in the end.

Quote
Unfortunately, high quality lenses are sometimes not only impractically heavy for some uses, but exhoribtantly expensive. I was recently looking at the Nikkor 200-400/F4 VR which has the FL range that I'm interested in. I got a shock when I saw prices ranging from $7,000 to $8,000. I got another shock when I saw the weight of 3.36kg.

Which begs the question, how often does one shoot at 200mm, or at 400mm? Wouldn't a 200mm fixed focus lens cover 90% of the situations and, if that is so, why lug around all that dead weight if perhaps a good 200mm (+ extender), perhaps even an f/2.8 (or whatever is on offer for ones camera platform), will perform just fine. Not everybody exclusively shoots birds (the feathered kind Wink ) all the time, and 200mm is a great focal length for many subjects and less sensitive to camera shake than a 400mm.

I do know what the benefits of multiple focal lengths in a single package are (such as smaller volume than multiple lenses, tighter crops, etc.), especially when traveling, but I also know that most zooms are mostly used at their extremes if one is trained to previsualize the composition (zoom with your feet). Intermediate settings are often only used when there is no time to swap lenses (or environmental conditions are unfavorable), which may weigh more heavily for some users.

Quote
But supposing the weight is not such a major concern and one is prepared to lug around a 4.3Kg package (telephoto lens plus camera), but price is a concern. Let's imagine one already has a D700 and a few good lenses up to 200mm or so, but one really wants a longer focal length up to 400mm.

The D800E seems the best upgrade to the D700 with 3x the pixel count, and the 200-400/F4 VR is undoubtedly a sharper lens than the 80-400/F4.5-5.6 VR.

I'm not familiar with the quality of the focal length extenders from Nikon, but maybe the want for 400mm can be fullfilled with that, assuming one invested in a good 200mm to begin with, which closes the circle. Quality helps (and may even be cheaper) in the longer term. If one really 'needs' a 400mm, then it may be best to go for just that. There may be a good used lens on offer somewhere.

Quote
Which is the best option? A D800E at $3,500, plus an 80-400 at $1300 making a total cost of $4,800, or just the 200-400/F4 at a bargain price of $7,000? The assumption here is that I can't afford to buy both the D800E and the 200-400/F4. If I opt for the 200-400/F4, spending $2,200 more, I know that I won't be able to afford (or justify the purchase of) any more photographic equipment for a few years.

That makes it a short term decision, which also needs to use current technology, so one should go for the best quality combination available for the least amount of money. It is almost guaranteed to be a more expensive choice over time, but that's just what it is, a short term decision. Again, I would consider dropping the 400mm 'requirement', which may lead to acquiring a much better quality solution in the shorter term, and cheaper in the longer term.

Choosing tripods is a similar conundrum, the more expensive choice is probably cheaper in the longer run (I know from experience), but sometimes short term budget constraints prohibit the more sensible decision.

Cheers,
Bart
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risedal
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« Reply #28 on: January 31, 2013, 08:31:17 PM »
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Sensor and lens are equally important, as are other factors such as ergonomics.  I'm not convinced that Nikon's D800E has the best sensor.  It may measure best for certain parameters, but I prefer Canon color and overall rendering.  And I prefer Canon's variable raw file options to Nikon's single raw file size.  So for me, Canon has the best sensor and now the best mid-range zoom.
well, make your own profile as Canon alike as you want to the Nikon camera, I can show you pictures rendered by a Nikon and you think you are looking at a canon picture and vice versa.
take a look here www.qpcard.com

Tell me , which sensor  is a better sensor than the d800? D600 sensor? None of the Canons for sure.
here is http://www.sensorgen.info and http://home.comcast.net/~nikond70/Charts/PDR.htm where you can compare sensors, and then you have  DXO .
« Last Edit: January 31, 2013, 08:46:38 PM by risedal » Logged
Fine_Art
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« Reply #29 on: January 31, 2013, 08:53:27 PM »
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Hi,

Personally I never print smaller than A2 and sometimes up to 70x100 cm.

What I would say that I have seen less difference between 12MP APS-C and 24MP full frame than what I would expected in A2 prints. I also think that sharpening matters a lot.

This discussion is very interesting. My take, right now, is that sensor resolution is more important than an excellent lens. I think that a good lens with an excellent sensor outperforms an excellent lens on a good sensor. This kind of discussion may be helpful in spending our assets wisely.

Best regards
Erik


I agree, good lenses are far ahead of all but the finest sensors.
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Ray
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« Reply #30 on: January 31, 2013, 09:45:02 PM »
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I would also consider a 24MP APS-C camera combined with a very good zoom. I don't know Nikon numbers but I'm sure there is a 24MP APS-C. Getting a really good zoom is a different issue. The Sigma 100-300/4 is said to be a very good performer.

Personally, I use a Sony Alpha full frame with Sony 24-70/2.8 and 70-400/4-5.6G lenses. For telephoto I always use my Alpha 77 (24MP APS-C). I'm quite happy with that combination.

Hi Erik,
I am considering a 24mp sensor, the D3200. I'm just a bit disappointed that the camera does not have autoexposure bracketing, and that its potential performance is compromised at least a little by its 12 bit processing. It has no 14 bit option.

When the reach of one's longest lens is the limitation, the 24mp of the D3200 should provide an advantage compared to the D800E. In other words, a 200% crop of the 24mp D3200 image, which would result in a 6mp image, should be noticeably sharper than a 300% crop of the same general scene using the same lens on the D800E, which would result in a 4mp image with the same FoV. Have I got my maths correct?

Perhaps the difference would be hardly noticeable, but an A3 size print should reveal it. The other advantage of the D3200 is it's so light it would allow me to carry two cameras and avoid frequently changing lenses.

Cheers!



[/quote]
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Ray
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« Reply #31 on: January 31, 2013, 10:04:35 PM »
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Sure, budget is always an issue on the short term, but on the longer term one will benefit from having a better lens.

Hi Bart,
Doesn't this depend on one's definition of 'better'. The better lens is not necessarily the sharper lens, but the lens which one uses more often, perhaps because of its image stabilisation, its range of focal lengths, its light weight and its general convenience, all of which in total may be more significant than a modest increase in the sharpness of an alternative option.

Of course, I would agree if one has a choice of two lenses which are similar in terms of features such as focal length, FL range, and weight etc, then it would be advisable to spend a bit more money on the sharper lens, whether it's a prime lens or a zoom lens that one is considering purchasing, provided the increase in price is not too ridiculous.

In my view, the ideal lens is a zoom lens which is as sharp, or at least nearly as sharp, as most good primes at focal lengths within the zoom's range. Such a lens is the Nikkor 14-24/F2.8. This lens is the reason I switched from the Canon system I'd been using for the previous 10 years, to Nikon. If Nikon had not produced this lens, I would have upgraded my 5D to a 5D2, and my 50D to a 7D, and would then possibly have felt too trapped to make the switch to Nikon when later discovering the significant DR advantages of the current Nikon sensors and the attractive performance of the D800E.

However, the main point I'm trying to make here is that I didn't buy that Nikkor 14-24 just because it is such a fine lens. I bought it because I knew I would be using it frequently, because of the history of my usage of the Sigma 15-30mm with the 5D.

Furthermore, I bought it also because on some occasions I'd experienced disappointed with the performance of the Sigma 15-30, particularly at the edges of the frame. I didn't buy the Nikkor just because of a theoretical awareness that it was a better lens than the Sigma.

Another reason for not spending significantly more money on a sharper lens, which will undoubtedly produce a greater increase in detail when later coupled with higher-resolving sensors, is that one can't predict what improvements in lens features and FL range will be offered in the future.

For example, the Canon 70-200/F2.8 and 70-200/F4 had fine reputations for being sharp lenses for many years. Some folks preferred the 70-200/F4 because it was lighter and less expensive, yet almost as sharp as the F2.8 version, but these lenses didn't use to have IS. The F2.8 version was the first to be upgraded with IS, then the F4 version sometime later. Now Nikon have come out with a VR version of the 70-200/F4.

Just because a lens is particularly sharp doesn't mean you will be satisfied with it for ever more. The main criterion in my view is to get a lens which you know you will use because it has the ergonomics and features, and the range of focal lengths which are most useful for your style of photography. I think one can be too easily seduced by the glowing reports of the sharpness of a lens, buy it, then find that one hardly ever uses it, except perhaps when comparing the performance of different sensors.  Wink

I think the last time I used my Canon 50/F1.4 prime was to compare the performance of a newly purchased Canon 50D with an older 40D, photographing the Australian $50 banknote taped to the wall.  Wink

Quote
As I said, in a better lens the overall image quality is likely to be better (CA, glare resistance, bokeh, resolution).

Glare was occasionally a problem with the Sigma 15-30, but only when pointing the lens in the general direction of the sun, which one tries to avoid doing whatever the lens. CA, barrel distortion etc, can now be fixed automatically in ACR or DXO Optics, so one need not place too much significance on such defects unless they are really bad.

Quote
I have used more (increasingly better) sensors per lens than the other way around. That's because my lens choice has always been for the better quality alternatives at that time. Good lenses last a long time, so saving a bit longer for a better lens will pay off in the end.

So have I, yet I've never bought any really expensive, first rate primes, and those which were moderately expensive, such as the Canon 50/F1.4 and the Canon 90/F2.8 TSE, I have not used much simply due to the general inconvenience of a single FL.

Whatever the quality of one's lenses, one will appreciate some degree of improvement as sensors become higher resolving, unless the lens is really bad. My only superzoom is the Canon 100-400/F4.5-5.6 IS which I bought with my very first DSLR, the 6mp D60, about 10 years ago. There is no doubt whatsoever that the 15mp 50D produces sharper images with this lens, than the D60 ever did, yet this is not a particularly sharp lens. At 400mm it's sharpest at F8. For me, the alternatives are too heavy, too expensive and too restrictive if they have a fixed FL.

Cheers!

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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #32 on: February 01, 2013, 01:19:59 AM »
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Hi Erik,
I am considering a 24mp sensor, the D3200. I'm just a bit disappointed that the camera does not have autoexposure bracketing, and that its potential performance is compromised at least a little by its 12 bit processing. It has no 14 bit option.


Has anyone actually ever proved that there is an advantage with 14 bits on a dslr sensor in the real world?
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Ray
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« Reply #33 on: February 01, 2013, 02:18:20 AM »
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Has anyone actually ever proved that there is an advantage with 14 bits on a dslr sensor in the real world?

Hi Ben,

Yes! Me!

When I received my D7000, after being persuaded by reports on the Net that it had remarkable dynamic range, the first test shots I took were to confirm for myself that it really did have better dynamic range than any other camera I owned, including the D700. I later took a few shots of the identical target in identical lighting, using the 12 bit and 14 bit options to see if I could detect a difference in image quality.

It appears there is a noticeable difference in the deepest shadows. Refer attached images comparing 12 bits with 14 bits in the 13th stop and the 14th stop of DR (underexposing by 13 stops). The differences are less obvious in the 11th and 12th stop, but still noticeable. Whether or not such differences would ever be of concern in real-world images would depend on the degree of cropping one does and the amount of detail one wishes to retrieve from the shadows, and also I suppose the ISO used. I imagine a D3200 would produce more shadow noise than a D7000 in 14 bit mode, when used at high ISOs.

The high image count shown in attached photos is due to my forgetting to format a card that had been used in my D700.

Cheers!
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #34 on: February 01, 2013, 10:11:04 AM »
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It appears there is a noticeable difference in the deepest shadows. Refer attached images comparing 12 bits with 14 bits in the 13th stop and the 14th stop of DR (underexposing by 13 stops). The differences are less obvious in the 11th and 12th stop, but still noticeable. Whether or not such differences would ever be of concern in real-world images would depend on the degree of cropping one does and the amount of detail one wishes to retrieve from the shadows, and also I suppose the ISO used. I imagine a D3200 would produce more shadow noise than a D7000 in 14 bit mode, when used at high ISOs.

Hi Ray,

What you are describing has more to do with dynamic range and signal to noise performance in shadows (where read noise dominates). So differences between sensorss and support electronics can play a large role here.

IMHO, the real difference between 12 and 14-bit ADC quantization will manifest itself in the highlight tonality, as it will be much smoother and will hold more detail. The attached charts (of a scanline from a synthesized stepwedge with Poisson noise added) should illustrate that it becomes increasingly more difficult to discern the differences between the relatively coarse steps in brightness as we lower the number of bits. It becomes especially troublesome after a gamma 1/2.2 adjustment, in particular in the highlights regions. More subtle detail with smaller brightness differences will lose all definition in the lower bit versions even faster.

Also remember that this originates at the Raw level, and it will therefore affect the demosaicing accuracy as well.

But this is getting a bit off topic, so I'll stop here. It can of course be discussed further elsewhere, should there be a need to.

Cheers,
Bart
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bjanes
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« Reply #35 on: February 07, 2013, 11:57:11 AM »
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Hi Ray,

What you are describing has more to do with dynamic range and signal to noise performance in shadows (where read noise dominates). So differences between sensorss and support electronics can play a large role here.

IMHO, the real difference between 12 and 14-bit ADC quantization will manifest itself in the highlight tonality, as it will be much smoother and will hold more detail. The attached charts (of a scanline from a synthesized stepwedge with Poisson noise added) should illustrate that it becomes increasingly more difficult to discern the differences between the relatively coarse steps in brightness as we lower the number of bits. It becomes especially troublesome after a gamma 1/2.2 adjustment, in particular in the highlights regions. More subtle detail with smaller brightness differences will lose all definition in the lower bit versions even faster.

Also remember that this originates at the Raw level, and it will therefore affect the demosaicing accuracy as well.

But this is getting a bit off topic, so I'll stop here. It can of course be discussed further elsewhere, should there be a need to.

Cheers,
Bart

Bart,

Your graphs are very informative, and your analyses are almost always informative, but your conclusion that a higher bit depth leads to better highlight gradation is not in accordance with my understanding. This is going off topic, so I have started a new thread here.

Regards,

Bill
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NancyP
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« Reply #36 on: February 07, 2013, 02:38:46 PM »
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Nikon has a hole in its lineup for the sharp, less expensive long telephoto prime user.
This, plus the inimitable macro 1x - 5x lens, is why I chose Canon when I started out - lots of options for the nature photographer. I, like many other Canon users, swear by the 400mm f/5.6L, $1,350.00 new, 1.25 kg., for birds in flight and birds in general. Maybe there's some old (discontinued film era) Nikon glass that may fill the bill.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #37 on: February 07, 2013, 02:41:25 PM »
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Hi,

Once things are good enough, being best or second best may matter little.

Best regards
Erik

Nikon has a hole in its lineup for the sharp, less expensive long telephoto prime user.
This, plus the inimitable macro 1x - 5x lens, is why I chose Canon when I started out - lots of options for the nature photographer. I, like many other Canon users, swear by the 400mm f/5.6L, $1,350.00 new, 1.25 kg., for birds in flight and birds in general. Maybe there's some old (discontinued film era) Nikon glass that may fill the bill.
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KLaban
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« Reply #38 on: February 07, 2013, 02:44:56 PM »
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Would you rather have the best sensor or the sharpest lens?

Given the choice I'd rather have the better eye.
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theguywitha645d
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« Reply #39 on: February 07, 2013, 07:15:00 PM »
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I would have the lens/sensor combination that gives me what I want. More resolution for either the sensor or lens is not "better." An image is more than a simple object lesson in MTFs. The largest factor in the quality of my images is me. Waiting for the perfect gear is like waiting for Godot. At at a certain point, the small improvements are not worth the time and expense of chasing after this stuff.
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